Iran says it shot down unmanned U.S. drone

AP

Last Updated 1:44 p.m. ET

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's armed forces have shot down an unmanned U.S. spy plane that violated Iranian airspace along the country's eastern border, the official IRNA news agency reported Sunday.

An unidentified military official quoted in the report warned of a strong and crushing response to any violations of the country's airspace by American drone aircraft.

"An advanced RQ170 unmanned American spy plane was shot down by Iran's armed forces. It suffered minor damage and is now in possession of Iran's armed forces," IRNA quoted the official as saying.

No further details were published.

A statement released Sunday afternoon by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said that the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) "to which the Iranians are referring may be a U.S. unarmed reconnaissance aircraft that had been flying a mission over western Afghanistan late last week.

"The operators of the UAV lost control of the aircraft and had been working to determine its status," the statement said.

Iran is locked in a dispute with the U.S. and its allies over Tehran's disputed nuclear program, which the West believes is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies the accusations, saying its nuclear program is entirely peaceful and that it seeks to generate electricity and produce isotopes to treat medical patients.

Iran said in January that two pilotless spy planes it had shot down over its airspace were operated by the United States and offered to put them on public display.

The Islamic Republic holds frequent military drills, primarily to assert an ability to defend against a potential U.S. or Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities.

Tehran has focused part of its military strategy on producing drones for reconnaissance and attacking purposes.

Iran announced three years ago it had built an unmanned aircraft with a range of more than 600 miles (1,000 kilometers), far enough to reach Israel.

Ahmadinejad unveiled Iran's first domestically built unmanned bomber aircraft in August 2010, calling it an "ambassador of death" to Iran's enemies.

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